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Finishing a basement at HomeImprovementArticle.Net with a Dry Lok seal

Eliminate moisture issues prior to finishing a basement

Many older homes have downspouts that lead into clay drainage tiles. Over time, these drainage tiles collapse or implode and no longer lead water away from your home's foundation. Instead of draining away from the house and its foundation, water accumulates around the foundation walls looking for a path into your home. The cement block wall making up your foundation is very porous and water can flow into your home very easily through these cement blocks. Your number one concern prior to finishing your basement is to eliminate these drainage concerns around your home by redirecting downspout flow away from your foundation and improving the grade around your home so that water drains away from your home and not into it.

Buy Drylok online

Sealing cement block foundations as another barrier against water intrusion with Dry lok

The second issue to address is to seal the porous cement block so that you have an effective barrier against water intrusion. I used a product called DRYLOK to seal the walls in my basement. You may also see it spelled as Drylock and Dryloc elsewhere on the internet. Drylok is a paint/sealant that forms a strong barrier against moisture and can be used on cement block. I was told to put it on as if I stole it - that is - apply it very liberally. My professional basement remodeler, Jerry Newkirk, recommends up to five coats of drylok for new/never sealed basement walls and fewer coats for basement walls that have been sealed in the past. He recommends reapplying drylok every two years. The results obtained from drylok were nothing short of phenomenal. My basement went from summertime humidity readings of sometimes close to 100% (where the walls would be wet to the touch - before drylok) to an average of about 60% humidity (after drylok application) with occasional hi readings of 75% on really muggy days without use of air conditioning. The damp, musty smell disappeared completely after Drylok application, and the entire basement can now be used much as the rest of the house. I have a living room set up now as well as an office space. Drylok application also eliminated most of the mold issues in the basement as much of the water penetration has been taken care of. In the photo to the left, you'll see the condition of the basement walls as they were prepped for drylok application. Care should be taken to scrape all loose paint/sealant from the walls and to remove dirt, dust and mold accumulations.

I've noticed that many people who have come to this site wonder if drylok will also make a basement feel warmer or seal out the cold air. That's a good question. To a certain extent, drylok does act as a small form of insulation. My buddy swore that my basement was a lot warmer after the drylok application. It may be a litte warmer and drylok may help in that regard. But I don't think that it has made a huge difference.

March 20, 2007 - It's been one year since I finished the main room in my basement using Dry lok as the foundation for a dry basement. The dry-lok finish on the cement block walls is still holding strong and has proved to be a strong barrier against water intrusion. I've notice some efflorescence forming in spots but no big deal. Overall dry lok has done its job in wet and humid central Ohio.

A couple other concerns that people have asked about our making a basement airtight and heating a basement. I used a product called "Great Stuff" to fill in cracks and holes in the foundation walls. Great Stuff is an expanding foam that insulates. Don't breathe in the vapors though. It's pretty noxious. That's a good start at making your basement airtight. Also check the insulation near the ceilings. As far as heating a basement, basements will always be cold as they are underground and you are usually right on top of a cement slab. Carpeting helps as do portable heaters. I have a fireplace in my basement and would like to add a gas insert for extra heat.

Adding insulation when finishing a basement

In the picture to the left, you'll see we have removed the original ceiling. While we had the ceiling removed, I suggested that we add insulation to help with keeping heat in the basement. My basement is typically freezing in the wintertime. Since we were replacing the ceiling anyway, adding insulation was a no-brainer. The cost is small and the benefits are great. Not only does it help keep the basement warm but insulation also acts to dampen the sound transmitted from and to the basement. No sense having a living area in the basement if you can clearly hear people's footsteps above you. (You'll also notice in the picture that electrical wiring was run to the point where the oven would be but never hooked up - thank you previous owners - I guess they decided they wanted a gas stove instead).

Glass block windows as part of a finished basement

In the picture I've included, you'll see that I had glass block windows installed in the basement with vents. The previous owner had the typical 1/4" windows and had also sealed them so they couldn't be opened. I suppose they did this to prevent water from entering. Well it sure is nice being able to open windows - especially in the basement where things can get a bit musty smelling. I went with the glass block windows for greater insulation against cold air intrusion, privacy, and aesthetics. Despite the extra cost, I had vents put in each of the windows. Although small, the vents allow for ventilation which I felt was important for my basement.

Light fixtures when finishing a basement

You'll see above the light fixture that hung from the ceiling. We removed that and installed recessed lighting in five locations. Not only does recessed lighting look nice and provide more balanced lighting throughout the room, it conserves valuable basement headroom. The ceiling height in my basement is only seven feet and the original light fixture hung down six inches from the ceiling. This resulted in a near lights out knockout of a friend of mine who stands 6'5". If you add carpet to your basement then that further cuts down on the headroom. In a space with low ceilings, consideration to light fixtures is a must.

You'll also notice that I had vinyl flooring installed over the former tile flooring. Vinyl flooring is installed in large sheets and I'm happy with the color scheme I chose as it really brightens the room and makes it feel clean. I wasn't happy with the covebase however. If I add vinyl flooring to another room in the basement, I'll pass on the covebase.

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